The Billings Gazette editorial page has called out gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte for his refusal to answer questions about how he will govern if elected, and especially how his religious views will influence how he decides. They note, as others have for months, that Mr. Gianforte has defined himself by his religious views and business success, but now that he is a candidate for governor, he’s become very silent about the former—and incredibly vague about the latter.
Mr. Gianforte’s views will have profound implications for Montana if he’s able to buy the governor’s chair. His endorsement of discriminatory government policies could crush Montana’s tourist and tech growth, his endorsement of private schools at the expense of public education could damage our excellent education results, and his likely elevation of people like those associated with the Montana Family Foundation to important roles in government will harms the civil rights of Montanans all across the state.
Let me be clear: Mr. Gianforte can be a bigot in own life and fund reactionary groups like the MFF with his personal funds. No one questions that. What he shouldn’t be able to do, however, is run for governor without answering hard questions about how those personal views will affect the way he’d govern. So far, the media has largely let him get away with it, and this editorial offers the promise that the kid gloves protecting the tech billionaire might finally be coming off.
What the editorial doesn’t touch on is the disingenuous game Gianforte and his supporters are claiming, and will continue to claim during the campaign: that questions about his religious views are rooted in bigotry against Christians. For the vast, vast majority of his critics, that’s a totally unfair claim. Mr. Gianforte is entitled to his religious beliefs, just as everyone is. Questioning how those beliefs will influence his policy decisions as governor is certainly fair, because we know the economic impacts of the state endorsing discrimination, just to give one example, would be devastating, and more importantly, that the state endorsing discrimination is wrong.
Of course, the real challenge in this editorial isn’t for Greg Gianforte. It’s for the press, which has covered his self-promotional tour for months, without demanding that the boy who would be king answer any questions. Near its conclusion, the Gazette editorial concludes “that’s why residents, voters and the media cannot let Gianforte simply take a pass by not answering questions about his beliefs.” I’d like to think that means no more fawning coverage when Mr. Gianforte comes to Billings and makes vague economic promises.
Time will tell.